There are many things for which Majorca can be proud but being the owner of the largest incinerator in Southern Europe should not be one of them. Recent news that the Balearic regional government deemed it a devilishly good idea to import waste from other European countries to feed the monster Son Reus incinerator north of the capital of Palma has unsurprisingly met with fierce opposition.
Environmental groups such as GOB, Zero Waste Europe and Greenpeace, opposition parties, pensioner lobbying groups and local councils have condemned the initiative and just about every Majorcan I’ve approached on the subject, but so far their complaints have fallen on deaf ears.
I might have missed a vital piece of logic along the way but for an island that survives on tourism promoting the concept of clean open spaces, mountains, rural pursuits, sea and sun it seems somewhat bizarre to be welcoming thousands of tons of rubbish along with holidaymakers each year.
When Son Reus was originally built it was apparently capable of burning 300,000 tons of waste and then for some inexplicable reason its capacity was increased first to 432,000 and then in 2011 to 736,000 tons. Why? It is estimated that Majorca creates about 540,000 tons of waste – 84 per cent of all municipal waste generated on the island which basically means that recycling and re-use appears to be of little interest to the authorities. So in order to feed the excess capacity of Majorca’s insatiable metal Minotaur, rubbish must now be imported. Ironically Bunyola, the unlucky town nearest to the incinerator, has been a trailblazer for recycling waste and its council is naturally indignant that piles of rubbish will in effect be dumped at its back door.
The conservative PP party which controls the regional government argues that importing waste is safe, will generate much needed income, create jobs and has full approval from the EU (as if that’s going to garner any confidence locally). Campaigning groups counter that there are potential public health issues and that the burning of so much waste could have a serious environmental impact on the island.
There have been numerous studies of the health dangers associated with living in close proximity to incinerators such as the well documented Saint-Niklaas study in Belgium, which examined the causal link between incinerators and cancer. Dr Vyvyan Howard, a renowned toxico-pathologist claims that “even the most modern incinerators still emit dioxins and similar chemicals”. The World Health Organisation (WHO) asserts that exposure to dioxins and furans, both powerful toxins, may lead to the impairment of the immune system, development of the nervous system, endocrine system and the reproductive functions and recommends that to reduce disease, alternatives to incineration should be found.
The Balearic regional government insists that the waste it will be shipping to Majorca is perfectly safe but local residents understandably would like proof of that. Perhaps José Ramón Bauzà, the island’s president who pushed the policy through, should follow in the footsteps of John Gummer, a former conservative agriculture minister in the UK, who forced his young daughter to eat a beef burger in a public relations photocall during the British mad cow disease fiasco. In the same vein Mr Bauza should be made to relocate with his family to the environs of Son Reus in a public show of faith. It would after all be putting his money where his mouth is.
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